Friday, September 30, 2011

Junior League and poverty

The Junior League of Dallas has been a partner of ours for many years. Recently, the organization has stepped up to the pressing challenges created by poverty. The League's new focus on strategic impact encourages us. The video here is the result of the group's latest research efforts.

Junior League of Dallas - Poverty from Elixir Entertainment on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colin Powell on Leadership

Leadership lesson #18  "Command is lonely."

Harry Truman was right.  Whether you're a CEO or the temporary head of a project team, the buck stops here.  You can encourage participative management and bottom-up employee involvement, but ultimately the essence of leadership is the willingness to make the tough, unambiguous choices that will have an impact on the fate of the organization.  I've seen too many non-leaders flinch from this responsibility.  Even as you create an informal, open, collaborative corporate culture, prepare to be lonely. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Colin Powell on Leadership

Leadership Lesson #17

"Have fun in your command.  Don't always run at a breakneck pace.  Take leave when you've earned it:  Spend time with your families.  Corollary: surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard."

Herb Kelleher of Southwest Air and Anita Roddick of The Body Shop would agree:  seek people who have some balance in their lives, who are fun to hang out with, who like to laugh (at themselves, too) and who have some non-job priorities which they approach with the same passion that they do their work.  Spare me the grim workaholic or the pompous pretentious "professional;" Ill them find jobs with my competitor. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Community: context and interpretation

Almost twenty years ago now, when I first began working in inner city East Dallas, someone suggested that "community interpretation" would be a helpful process to pursue.  Whoever said or wrote this nugget of good advice compared the process to interpreting a passage of scripture or great literature.  The fine art of exegesis could be applied to social context.  Intriguing notion as I considered it for the first time. 

Working at this enterprise for quite awhile now has proven its validity, better its necessity.  These days I find myself looking at built environments, social and public institutions, formal and informal groups of people and even basic community services as essential pieces in any useful community understanding or interpretation. 

Of course, central to this exercise is people.  People will always occupy "square one" in any effort to "exegete" a community.  That's where I started, that's where I'll end. 

So, what about people?

Mrs. Alexander.  Nonis Alexander has been volunteering in our food pantry for years now. She is the first face you'll likely see as you enter, hers the first welcoming voice to  catch your ears.  She loves people.  She loves her role in the community.  She loves her church.  She loves me!  And, of course, I love her too.  Not sure how old she is, but she's getting on up there.  But age has only deepened and refined the power of her life and influence.  She is battling with serious health issues these days.  But hospitalization or treatment sessions don't keep her away from her station in her community for very long at a time.  She is an amazing person.  Not a materially wealthy person, almost no one in the community is, she commands great social, spiritual and social capital.  An indispensable member of the community, we couldn't do without her, and she knows it!  In my view she draws health from her station of significance and connection to others.  Lot's to learn here. 

Stranger at the gas station.  Yesterday I stopped at a filling station to purchase fuel for the week.  As often happens here, I was approached by a rather disheveled gentleman carrying two prescription drug bottles.  "Sir, I'm from Bastrop, you know where the fires were so bad," he began.  I shot back, a bit too quickly I expect, "Come on, man, don't game me like that!"  He claimed to be telling me the truth.  As we talked, he never convinced me that his opening approach was exactly true.  But, he did share that he wasn't homeless, but living in a rented room.  He shared current medical records from Parkland.  As we talked, he moved to the real issue of the moment for him.  His disability check wasn't due for another week and he was hungry.  He wanted a sandwich and offered to go into the store and let me purchase a meal for him.  I never know how to handle these situations, and I know my decisions would usually disappoint the experts who can share "the right approach" easily.  I gave the gent a little cash.  He thanked me and I watched as he went to the store to buy himself a sandwich.  Still wondering if he's ever been to Bastrop.

Shopping cart for a car.  I've seen the pair before, but always when I'm driving, like yesterday on the way to church of all places!  I haven't been able to talk to them yet.  They create an unforgettable, uncomfortable sight, that's for sure.  One woman pushes a standard grocery shopping cart down the street.  The other woman is seated, better crammed in the cart itself, evidently unable to walk.  In short, the cart doubles as their primary means of transportation.  No doubt homeless, and I imagine highly "shelter resistant," the couple hammers out some sort of life on the streets.  I'm determined to meet them, in the meantime, I catch myself wondering about the sort of life they pursue.  These two women press hard against my heart and mind a fundamental community question:  Why can't we find a way to improve the lives and the lot of these most unusual neighbors?  Healthy communities figure out answers. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homework and hope

My friend and Harvard educated business mastermind, Brant Bryan sent me this "stat of the day" from the Harvard Business Review.  I find it most interesting.

Students Do Less Homework When the Jobless Rate Rises

An uptick in the jobless rate from 5% to 6% decreases the amount of time high-school students choose to spend on homework by about 19 minutes per week, says Steven McMullen of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's because a higher unemployment rate diminishes expected labor-market returns, thus reducing the value of human-capital investment. For similar reasons, a $1 rise in the minimum wage in a state increases students' homework time by about 21 minutes per week, McMullen says.

Source: How do Students Respond to Labor Market and Education Incentives? An Analysis of Homework Time

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Poverty can't be ignored any longer," or maybe it can be. . .

Opinion: Poverty met with silence

By Juan Williams - 09/19/11 05:00 AM ET
from The Hill. . .

As Congress’s supercommittee started work behind closed doors last week on long-term spending cuts, there was a public display of Democrats and Republicans singing very predictable and partisan songs over President Obama’s jobs bill.

All of these songs featured clich├ęs about not raising taxes at all — the Republican chorus — or protecting the middle class and small business from tax hikes — the Democrats and Republicans in stereo choral suite.

And then, for a moment, the singing stopped.

The troubling moment of silence came from a Census Bureau report last week that showed a record 46.2 million Americans living in poverty last year. That is the highest number in the 52 years the statistic has been measured.

That means 2.6 million people fell into poverty in just the last year.

That prompted more silence from the big voices on Capitol Hill.

The percentage of the population who are in poverty stands at an alarming 15 percent. For black Americans, the poverty rate zoomed to 27.4 percent. Hispanic Americans’ rate of poverty climbed to 26.6 percent. Asian-American poverty hit 12.1 percent while white American poverty was at 9.9 percent.

Yet in an instant, the congressional choir returned to singing its standard songs.

Maybe the congressional leadership, the budget committees and the supercommittee did not know what to say. Maybe the many millionaires in Congress suffered their bouts of speechlessness from embarrassment.

Earlier this year, 235 House members and 40 senators voted for the Republican budget authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The Ryan budget appears to call for the elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and for deep cuts in food stamps and Pell grants.

And the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, passed in July by the GOP House majority, and Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) proposals during the debt-ceiling talks ended longstanding exemptions to cuts on programs to keep people out of poverty.

The Bowles-Simpson proposal for balancing the budget kept those programs in place. So did the proposals from the bipartisan Gang of Six.

The Ryan budget also ends Medicare — which prevents the elderly from falling into poverty because of health problems — as a guaranteed program. It also slashes funding for programs that benefit poor children, such as Head Start and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

This is nothing to sing about.

Keep in mind that the poverty line is just $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four. Yet 1 of every 7 Americans now falls below it. And still Congress averts its eyes and continues to sing the same old hymns to people with money to donate to political campaigns and money to lobby for their pet programs.

“Programs for the poor are not politically popular because there is no constituency,” said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies public policy on poverty. “If it is a choice between cutting programs for veterans and cutting spending for poor mothers and infants, guess who wins? It is not that veterans shouldn’t get help. It is just the political reality.”

To read entire report click here.

Proverbs 31:9

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poverty can't be ignored any longer

What follows was reported by The New York Times (September 13, 2011):

Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade’

WASHINGTON — Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it.

And in new signs of distress among the middle class, median household incomes fell last year to levels last seen in 1997.

Economists pointed to a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard.

“This is truly a lost decade,” Mr. Katz said. “We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we’re looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s.”

The bureau’s findings were worse than many economists expected, and brought into sharp relief the toll the past decade — including the painful declines of the financial crisis and recession —had taken on Americans at the middle and lower parts of the income ladder. It is also fresh evidence that the disappointing economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens.

The report said the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15.1 percent, was the highest level since 1993. (The poverty line in 2010 for a family of four was $22,314.)

To read the entire report click here.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Record poverty levels. . .

One of CitySquare's great board members sent me this summary of last Wednesday's report on the dramatic growth of poverty in the U.S. over the past year. 



Sadly challenging. 

Difficult beyond words.

The Dallas Morning News has an article on the front page today:  Poverty in US Reaches Record. 

46.2 million now live at or below the official poverty line.

Poverty line for family of four is $22,314.00.

Texas poverty rate is up 9% to 18.4%. National average is 15.1%.

Breakdown is:

Blacks – 27.4%
Hispanic – 26.6%
Asian – 12.1%
White, non-hispanic – 9.9%

Since 2001 median household income has fallen 6.4% to $49,445 in 2010.

Concerning numbers indeed.

Monday, September 19, 2011


CitySquare attempts to operate from a strong foundation defined by four very clear value propositions.  We are beginning to weave these priorities into all that we do and wherever we engage others.

Here they are without commentary:

Community:  WE over me.

Faith:  The power that's ours.

Justice Focus of our fight!

Stewardship Commitment to accountability.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Click here to contect to a powerful, revealing and prophetic photo journalism site that focuses on poverty in the United States.

Will we wake up?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Donor Bridge opportunity

Cottages get Dallas Morning News endorsement

The following editorial endorsement appeared in this morning's edition of The Dallas Morning News:

Editorial: Project for chronically homeless deserves strong council support

At a time when finances couldn’t be tighter for the city, this newspaper places a high bar on any project that calls for taxpayer assistance. A proposal by the Central Dallas Community Development Corp. for a unique, 50-unit homeless housing project in South Dallas clears that bar with room to spare.

The development group is asking for $500,000 in voter-approved bond money to assist with a $6 million project focused on helping the chronically homeless — those whose persistent mental-health and legal issues help perpetuate their life on the streets. The City Council should have no problem approving this request from the same 2005 bond package that funded Dallas’ main homeless assistance center, The Bridge.

Don’t be fooled by the project’s name, the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, which conjures up images of hickory trees along a serene country road. These efficiency-size homes will be located amid blighted, empty lots and the DART maintenance station where Malcolm X Boulevard intersects with Interstates 30 and 45.

The tract is part of one of the largest, contiguous expanses of vacant property in Dallas’ urban core. This newspaper’s preference has been for a mixed-use development there, capable of luring retailers and urban dwellers across the psychological threshold that divides northern and southern Dallas along I-30. But the economic reality is that no such development will happen anytime soon.

The Central Dallas Community Development Corp. will work closely with CitySquare, the nonprofit previously known as Central Dallas Ministries, to provide not only housing and counseling but also health services and a food pantry for homeless and low-income individuals.

Years ago, another organization quietly tried to build a similar project on Malcolm X, not far from this site. The plan collapsed when local residents learned of it and protested the surreptitious route that its planners took to sneak it into existence. The cold reality is that no one wants to live next door to a facility for the chronically homeless.

John Greenan of the Central Dallas Community Development Corp. says Hickory Crossing came about with full consultation among community members, including on the other side of the freeway in Deep Ellum. There were no major objections, possibly because the site is in such an isolated area.

The project also won strong support from City Council members Pauline Medrano and Carolyn Davis, whose districts will be most affected by it. UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas plans to monitor the facility’s progress under a three-year study to gauge its effectiveness.

Dallas has 600 to 1,000 chronically homeless people. The cost of caring for them, according to some national studies, can range between $35,000 and $150,000 a year. It makes much more sense to give programs like Hickory Crossing a chance to put a dent in those numbers, rather than standing idly by and watching them grow.

The tract bounded by Interstates 30 and 45, Malcolm X and Louise sits largely isolated and has been vacant and blighted for years. A few light industrial businesses share nearby spaces along with the DART maintenance terminal at Malcolm X and Santa Fe. The closest South Dallas residential neighborhood is more than half a mile away, making this location ideal for an urban homeless housing project.

U. S. poverty on rise

Those of us who work daily alongside and among low-income Americans hate to hear news like this. It is crucial that we respond as a nation to this sort of pain and suffering. Forty-six million of our neighbors live in poverty. But, notice how even a report on the growth of poverty ends up reporting on the U. S. stock market. The folks with whom we deal daily live no where near the market. Mainstream media typically ignores the poor and the real difficulties created by the growth of domestic poverty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Colin Powell on Leadership

Lesson #16  The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.

Too often, the reverse defines corporate culture.  This is one of the main reasons why leaders like Ken Iverson of Nucor Steel, Percy Barnevik of Asea Brown Boveri, and Richard Branson of Virgin have kept their corporate staffs to a bare-bones minimum-how about fewer than 100 central corporate staffers for global $30 billion-plus ABB? Or around 25 and 3 for multi-billion Nucor and Virgin, respectively?  Shift the power and the financial accountability to the folks who are bringing in the beans, not the ones who are counting or analyzing them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New leaders' organization in Dallas

Calling all Nonprofit CEOs/Executive Directors!

On behalf of the transitional team, you are invited to attend the final meeting of the Association of United Way Agency Executives (AUWAE) and inaugural meeting of the Chamber of  Human Service Nonprofits/
Friday, September 16, 2011
9:00 am-10:15 am
Communities Foundation of Texas
5500 Caruth Haven Lane
Dallas, Texas 75225

This meeting is open to all AUWAE members, CEO’s/Executive Directors of agencies newly funded by United Way and CEOs/Executive Directors of ALL health and human service providers. Please invite your friends.


Brent Christopher, President/CEO of the Communities Foundation will share his insights into our community impact and how the Communities Foundation has created its funding mechanisms and priorities.

Sandy Kress, Senior Counsel with Akin/Gump and a long time leader in our community and in the state as a proponent of public education will provide an update and offer insights into the future of public education and our opportunity to influence and support that critical process.
A third agenda item will be a quick piece of organizational business as we respectfully retire the Association of United Way Agency Executives and give form to our new organization – Chamber of Human Service Non Profits: aka CHSN.


You have heard several times from AUWAE leadership about the work that has occurred over the past nine months to retire the organization now that we are no longer relevant to the United Way structure and to create a new future for our work together. We are ready to remove the “under construction” banner.

With credit to the entire Executive Committee, but especially Florencia Velasco-Fortner, The Concilio who served as the Chair of the organization last year, and to Larry James, CitySquare who will be nominated as the Chair of the new organization, we pondered the question “is there a reason for this organization to exist in the future?” We spent many hours in conversations with community leaders and with United Way volunteer and staff leadership. And we listened to you through personal conversations and a survey that was distributed last January.

The overwhelming response we received focused on two important issues:

• Leadership of north Texas nonprofit human service organizations are very interested in creating a forum for fellowship, discussion and focus on common issues.

• Leadership also expressed a keen interest in opening lines of communication with major funding sources that look to our sector for community-based solutions through collaborative programs.

With those two objectives defining our early planning, we are excited to report that our meeting next Friday at the Communities Foundation will feature two highly regarded community leaders.

We are excited for you to join us to learn more…see you Friday, September 16 at 9:00 am.

Rita K. De Young
Chief Executive Officer
4411 Skillman Street
Dallas, Texas 75206
214-824-1122 Ext. 101
214-824-1148 Fax

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today, it seems best to simply embrace silence and remember. 

May reflection issue in prayers for the surviving members of the families touched by the tragedy that is now a decade past. 

May memory solidify in hearts and souls the power of peace and the importance of our continuing pursuit of it. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Labor and Capital

"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Colin Powell on Leadership

Lesson # 15:  Part I:  Use the P=40 to 70 in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.    Part II:  Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.

Don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late.  Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds "analysis paralysis."  Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Colin Powell on Leadership

Lesson #14:  Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.

Effective leaders understand the KISS principle, Keep It Simple, Stupid. They articulate vivid, over-arching goals and values, which they use to drive daily behaviors and choices among competing alternatives.  Their visions and priorities are lean and compelling, not cluttered and buzzword-laden.  Their decisions are crisp and clear, not tentative and ambiguous. They convey an unwavering firmness and consistency in their actions, aligned with the picture of the future they paint.  The result:  clarity of purpose, credibility of leadership and integrity in organization.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Poem concerning little brother. . .

Gracie, my 9-year-old granddaughter, wrote the following poem about her little brother, Wyatt.


My brother is the best,
The best at being a pest!

He wakes me up at daybreak
Because he makes the house shake
With this loud screaming
Coming from the t.v. (at which he is beaming).

During the day there are countless tricks ,
Not to mention his hard kicks!

At night spying is involved,
The reason why is still unsolved!

But I tell you, he does not live in a zoo.
He lives in this house where he belongs
Where he makes and sings annoying songs.

I love him so,I’d hate to see him go,
Because he is my brother.
He’s also related related to my mother.

Here’s what I say: I love you!
And if he were reading this,
He’d say I love you too!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day gratitude. . .

My father taught me to respect work. 

But, he always went farther than that.  He also was careful to teach me to respect the people who performed the work, all people who worked, no matter what their job, status, tenure or wage. 

Now that he is gone, I find myself remembering his lessons each year as Labor Day comes round again. 

In his memory and for his instruction I find that I'm very grateful for. . .
  • Sanitation workers
  • Oil field hands
  • Miners
  • Commercial fishermen
  • Home builders
  • Construction workers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Truck drivers
  • Postal workers
  • Mechanics
  • Ship workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Window washers
  • Domestic workers
  • Legal aids
  • Actors
  • Film makers
  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • Singers
  • Telecommunications workers
  • Street and highway construction crews
  • Bridge builders
  • Street sweepers
  • Utility workers
  • Brick layers and masons
  • Work workers
  • HVAC technicians
  • Waiters
  • Parking attendants
  • Secretaries
  • Landscape employees
  • Public School teachers
  • University professors
  • Counselors
  • Lawyers
  • Judges
  • Political leaders
  • Organized labor
  • Architects
  • Venture capitalists
  • Non-profit employees
  • Chefs
  • Code Enforcement employees
  • Ministers
  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Nurses
  • Orderlies
  • Custodians
  • Parks and Recreation workers
  • Government employees
  • Sales clerks
  • Security personnel
  • Members of the Armed Forces
  • Police officers
  • Dispatchers
  • Carpenters
  • Furniture makers
  • Retail workers
  • Wholesale supply workers
  • Marketing workers
  • Public relations workers
  • Firemen
  • Ambulance drivers
  • ER staff members
  • Child care workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Industrial employees
  • Pilots
  • Flight attendants
  • CPS workers
  • Community organizers
  • Environmental workers
  • Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Mortgage bankers
  • HR workers
  • Accountants
  • Bookkeepers
  • A/R and A/P clerks
  • IT workers
  • Engineers--technical and trains!
  • The list is endless!
We all need each other.  We all need what each produces and cares for.  Work, labor and fair wages stand near the heart of the realization of any "beloved community."

Celebrate labor today. . .your own and that of your fellows.

Saturday, September 03, 2011


"By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers."

- Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, September 02, 2011

Food on the Move

We received the drawing above from a child involved in our "Food on the Move" initiative this summer.  You'll also see a thank you letter from this child's mother. 

Partnering with the Texas Department of Agriculture through our Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition (N,K,N) team, our AmeriCorps team and our for-profit allies at PepsiCo, we delivered thousands of meals to eligible children living all across Dallas. 

Theresa Cissell, Program Specialist for our AmeriCorps team sent the drawing and the letter my way with the following commentary:

I thought you might enjoy the letter (an accompanying drawing) we got from one of the parents at a Food on the Move site. I think it shows that this program is about more than lunches!
Here are some stats for the summer that I sent to the amazing AmeriCorps members that made it through the summer, and with smiles on their faces.

We started the summer with 53 dedicated AmeriCorps members & 9 mobile routes.

You made it through 40 days of triple digit temperatures & 23,943 hours of service.

And together, this is what you achieved:  1,136 children received the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award & 279,551 meals were served to kids.

The Food on the Move effort does not take into account the meals delivered through N,K,N to well over 100 program sites across Dallas.  We'll have those numbers to add to this report later.  Combined we served well over 500,000 meals to low-income children during the summer school break.
Great work in the midst of recording breaking summer in terms of both temperature and community service!